Okinawa After The War - PART 2

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Words and photographs by Jack Bivin

ncoclub1.jpgncoclub2.jpg"I was the only one around who didn't drink, so I was made manager of the NCO Club. Previous managers either already had a drinking problem or developed one while managing the club." Being manager of the NCO Club did have its perks. I was able to move into the club from a tent which did have wooden floors but was very messy with mud when it rained, and that seemed to be most of the time. Also I did not miss living with seven other soldiers who were nice guys, but, my living standards were greatly improved with the move to the club. (The exterior of the NCO Club and inside the bar area)

There was a crew of seven Okinawan girls who were brought in to clean the club after a night of GIs letting off steam. I never had to tell them what to do and the club was immaculate all of the time. I was surprised when the girls, without being asked, made my bed and washed my clothes no matter how few pieces there were.

Some of the NCO Club workers There was not a shortage of help at the club. In addition to the girls, a crew of four Japanese POWs were assigned to the club. They took care of most of the outside duties. A couple of the POWs were artists and painted murals around the walls. Some of the paintings had to be modified when the CO wandered through one day. A few pieces of clothing had to be added to the murals, which seemed to placate the CO.

Things ran pretty smooth at the NCO Club. I was able to maintain crowd control with the aid of two bartenders who were chosen for their physical attributes and their presence alone avoided many uprisings. One night the Officer of the day came through the club and observed a soldier toss a cigarette butt on the floor, which was not in the cleanest condition. He ordered the soldier to clean up the whole floor. When I saw this I went over to the OD and told him to leave the club. He started to inform me that I did not tell the OD what to do, when the bartenders showed up in back of me, the OD quietly departed.

More workers The next day, early, I got word from a runner that the CO wanted to see me. This was not the first such request of this nature, but I did think that maybe I had overstepped military protocol. When I reported to the CO - I could tell that he was not happy with me.

He asked me what my story was and I told him that the OD had ordered one of the men to clean up the floor. I told him that all the men were "short fused" because of the fact that they were being held there when the war was over and it was hard to remain calm and collected under the circumstances. I told him that the club was one place where the men could relax without the "authority cloud over their heads" and that I figured that the men needed that atmosphere once in a while.

I must have made a pretty good speech because he agreed with me and that was the end of that problem. jack2.jpgI also got to see most of the island with a Captain who befriended me. We flew in an L-5 aircraft and I brought my camera along.

The CO asked me if I could find some kind of a boat that could be used to sail about the islands. He evidently had heard about my scrounging abilities and thought that I might be able to locate a boat. My situation, being manager of the NCO Club, really did not put my scrounging talents to the ultimate test. The club was an inexhaustible source of beer and whiskey. The Navy and Marines were rationed to a couple of beers a week and the enlisted man had no ration of whiskey at all. If I ran short of "supplies" all I had to do was schedule a C-46 and fly to Manila and stock up. On one of these supply missions there were 5 armed guards aboard. I asked what their mission was but received no answer. After we landed in Manila the pilot told me that there was over two million dollars cash aboard and they were taking it to the bank. I usually carried two to three thousand dollars cash with me when we went to Manila and I felt very uncomfortable with that much money as I walked the streets. I figured that every one knew that I had the money and some of the people in Manila did not look too friendly.. Anyway I didnít mind the fact I wasnít aware of the two million cash that was on the C-46. An okinawan scene

I negotiated with the Navy fellows for a boat suitable for "high seas" travel and was shown a boat that was about 30í long . I think they called it a "P" boat, and it looked like it would meet the requirements of the CO. So off I sailed to a dock that was closer to Kadena. As I was cruising along the coast I figured Iíd see how fast it would go. When I advanced the throttle the clutch would slip and the best speed was about 4 knots. The CO inspected the boat and seemed pleased. I told him about the clutch and that it would have to be repaired. About a day passed when a low bed truck drove up and five men wanted to know where the COís boat was located. I showed them to the dock and they proceeded to unload the low boy truck which consisted of a brand - new arc welding machine. The engine in the arc welding machine was a Chrysler Marine engine complete with gear box, clutch etc. The crew quickly removed the engine assembly from the arc generator which they deposited in the bay and installed the new Chrysler Marine engine /clutch in the boat. It was a direct replacement for the old unit. The boat now would do 15 to 20 knots, sufficient for the task assigned it.

(I guess I wasnít the only scrounger about)

On one of the trips in the boat there was a nurse aboard, no doubt invited by the officers as enlisted men were not allowed to fraternize with nurses. During this cruise the nurse was talked into wrapping herself in the flag at the aft of the boat. She pulled the straps of her swim suit down and exposed as much as she could, keeping a little modesty. The effect with the flag wrapped around her was that she was wearing nothing but the flag.

Everybody got their picture taken with their arms around the flag except me. I had to operate the camera. The photos turned out great. It was unnecessary to have the subjects say "cheese. . ."

I spent a whole evening making 8x10 enlargements for everybody. The CO wanted at least 20 copies. He passed them out all over the island and everybody had a good laugh with considerable envy apparent. This photo was one of my best efforts and copies showed up on many bulletin boards.

About a week passed when the CO was surprised by a telegram that his wife and small baby would be visiting the island in a week or so. There was a plan that officersí wives could visit their husbands overseas. Enlisted men did not receive this consideration.

Needless to say that PANIC was the order of the day. The CO spent many anxious hours traveling around the island retrieving 8x10 photos. He kept asking me if I was sure about the number of copies that I processed. He was unable to find them all. I even destroyed my copy and the negative. Evidently he was successful as his wife visited and left the island after a really nice visit. I wish I had a copy now as a picture is worth a thousand words.

One of the bartenders that worked at the club was killed in a jeep accident. The jeep is a very unstable vehicle and turns over easily at high speeds. Everybody who wanted a jeep had one. There were numerous accidents involving drink and jeeps, so HDQs was forced to limit jeep possession to only those that had to have one. The MPs had long list of jeeps and serial numbers and checked out all the jeeps to see if the serial number was on the list. If not, the jeep was confiscated. It took about a month before the officers realized that three or four jeeps had the same serial number. Mine had the same number as the COís. This was necessary as manager of an NCO club did not qualify to have a jeep. But the MPs were getting rough on jeep possession. I didnít want any trouble so I got rid of mine. I had a photo of my jeep going over a cliff. Evidently someone could not keep their mouth shut as it was rumored that the MPs were looking for the responsible party of the "flying jeep" I quickly destroyed the print and negative as I had with the boat photos. I never did hear from the MPs so I guess that they had more important fish to fry. . .

Okinawan man When photographing the Okinawans I detected an uneasiness in the older folks. The children thought it was fun. I finally deduced that they were fearful of the American soldier. Before the invasion the Okinawan civilians were told by the Japanese that the Americans slaughtered, raped and cannibalized captives (not necessarily in that order). .

Anyway, I figured that the older people were scared and did not want to cause any problems. Later I was told that it was against their religion to be imaged on paper.

oki5.jpg If I had known - I would have been more discreet in my photographic endeavors. Anyway, they should not have been frightened of me, I had given up the terrorist tactics. The Armed Forces had given up these practices also. (Well at least two out of the three)